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Does the gaming industry work hard enough on its reputation?

Does the gaming industry work hard enough on its reputation?

Fri 15 Mar 2013 7:40am GMT / 3:40am EDT / 12:40am PDT
Media

Media Special: Analyst Adam Keal on why games still aren't media mainstream

Big budget ad campaigns, PR junkets, celebrity endorsements, and sponsorships. When it comes to selling products, the money and time invested in creating brand noise shows the real scale of ambition in the gaming industry. Yet when it comes to the collective, longer-term reputation of gaming, this ambition fades into the background by comparison.

Predictable and lazy tabloid associations between computer games and serial killings continue. I don't believe for a moment that the writers of these reactionary articles really believe that Medal of Honor is to blame, or whether it was Call of Duty's fault. They are merely delivering an audience to their publisher, and the easy way to do that is by appealing to their need for something or someone to blame.

These are journalists who inevitably play games themselves, or at the very least have seen how it plays a part in family entertainment. They will know about the many other genres that go alongside the first person shooter, they will know about the Wii and Angry Birds, and they may know about the educational benefits of gaming. Sadly, when they write a sensationalist article blaming an atrocity on a game, they are writing to fulfil a brief.

Responding to these articles to refute opinions or provide more balance is not going to change anything. The industry needs to take a more proactive approach in discussion with senior editors and publishers who are responsible for the line their journalists take.

"Sadly, when they write a sensationalist article blaming an atrocity on a game, they are writing to fulfil a brief"

Do these headlines matter? There's no evidence to suggest they hinder sales. And after all, you could argue that eventually, these kinds of reports and associations will disappear. A younger breed of journalists will emerge as editors and they will have grown up with consoles and iPads as children. In the future, most of the Daily Mail's elder readers will reject gaming as a scapegoat as there will be something new to blame by then.

This inevitable shift in perception will take a great deal of time, but reliance on this is turning a blind eye to the issue. It also does a disservice to those who are working so tirelessly to transform the industry's reputation.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, Joe Biden led a Washington task force to investigate the association between gaming and gun crime and leading publishers were invited to submit evidence. This is why those sensationalist headlines need to be addressed: they have an impact, not on sales, but on Government relations.

We need to broaden the media's view of the industry. This is an industry, of course, that creates more in economic value than the film industry, bringing jobs and wealth. It brings pleasure and it brings education. Yet this is where flattering comparisons with Hollywood end, because Tarantino movies are considered art while Black Ops II perceptibly represents an irresponsible industry poisoning our children's minds.

Research that analyses the mass media's portrayal of the industry needs to be used to hold a dialogue at a senior level. This work also needs to understand the true problem in order to be able to help us fix it. However, the industry needs to assert its views not just in the day to day press office exchanges with reporters, but through the prism of a macro-economic editorial debate. This won't deliver immediate change, but it needs to be the start of a longer-term campaign.

"Research that analyses the mass media's portrayal of the industry needs to be used to hold a dialogue at a senior level"

The media are of course, merely a channel. The real audience are those who influence the media and those influenced by it - Government, and parents. These groups need to understand the importance of gaming both in terms of its economic potential and as a viable career option.

The two go hand in hand and need to be addressed in the curriculum. Schools need to understand that it holds the key to attracting kids into science and maths subjects. More than that though, the Government needs to understand that gaming can form part of a modern curriculum that will help the economy and Britain's creative industries. We need to equip our future generations with the tools of the future. It's the only way we will successfully compete on a global stage.

Perceptions of industries and their economic fortunes are always intertwined and for me the industry needs to stand shoulder to shoulder to address it.

Recently, two veteran games developers, David Cage and Warren Spector, suggested that the industry needs more variety in its products and more maturity. They have attracted a lot of industry criticism, but regardless of their opinion, the industry needs to challenge itself, but more importantly it needs to challenge the status quo.

Maturity isn't an issue, but we need to show those outside the industry that it isn't.

9 Comments

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
Does the gaming industry work hard enough on its reputation? It doesn't have to. based of web game sites, the gaming media now mostly works for the software industry, not the gamers. In what other industry would I be ultra confident that the next Valve/Bethesda/Bioware game will get 92% plus reviews? And at the same time know that games like Witcher 3 or any Paradox release will not get anywhere near 92%?! The fact is, however average and dumb a major publisher game release is it will score well. A game from a medium sized publisher with an excellent game will not score as well. I wonder if this is because big companies invite journalists to big bashes, and medium sized companies cannot afford to. Also, it would seem, as most gaming sites are American, European titles struggle to get attention and good scores, however good they are.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

284 182 0.6
@James Ingrams

I am not quite sure that what you mention is totally on the spot relatively to this topic. To my understanding, the questioning was about "the reputation of the industry outside the industry taken globally (including the industry's customers, and parallel economies&jobs)". Basically, it is about how the industry is perceived by people who have no idea about it (and therefore don't even go to web games sites or gaming media).

Posted:A year ago

#2

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
You don't think gamers don't talk to non-gaming schoolmates.relatives, etc? You don't think, as gamers get older, they don't talk to work-mates, etc? You don't think tthe reason for the indie market is that those programmers do not believe in the industry, so work outside it?

Posted:A year ago

#3

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

834 1,079 1.3
I think it does. Lucy Bradshaw is hard at work furthering that reputation as we speak...

Posted:A year ago

#4

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8
The revenue generated by gaming as an industry now safely puts it into the same category as the pharmaceutical and defence industries. Sure, people might complain, but the government isn't going to kill off all that tax dollar. Obviously the industry will need to lobby harder for the same sort of incentives and tax breaks.

Gaming doesn't need to "improve it's image" any more than rock and roll did. The only meaningful source of respectability in a capitalist world is turnover and profit and gaming is doing fine by those benchmarks.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
The only meaningful source of respectability in a capitalist world is turnover and profit and gaming is doing fine by those benchmarks.
Well, you could take that line with non-gaming software companies, but that ignores politics and consumer-focused issues. For example, Microsoft may bring in jobs, but that doesn't stop the EU levying fines against them for anti-competitive behaviour.

Anyone who's of a certain age will remember the anti-Genetically Modified food protests in the UK during the '90s. Were those protests based on scientific evidence? Kind of, but not wholly. They were based on the perception that something was bad, and those protests had the knock-on effect of ruining the GM business in the UK for a good decade. So it could go with gaming. To assume that profit and tax income protects an industry is to assume that politicians do not change policy on a whim based solely on public opinion, which is sadly not entirely accurate. It also assumes that those in positions of power do not have an agenda. For example, it may be that some lobbyists are Pro-NRA/anti-gaming. Those lobbyists can push their agenda onto politicans, who, following public opinion of "GTA4 made little Tommy go crazy" type headlines, will try and outlaw some games.

The last sentence of the article is
Maturity isn't an issue, but we need to show those outside the industry that it isn't.
That's a bold statement. Read back through some of the comments posted here (by people in the industry) regarding the Feminism vs Tropes video, then come back and say that.

Edit to add:

Relevant to the article - and my comment above - is this:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-07-31/banned-the-absurdity-of-australias-game-rating/459012

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 16th March 2013 6:25pm

Posted:A year ago

#6

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8
My comment doesn't ignore the occasional impact of passing political fads, I just don't think that the senate is going to kill off massive revenue streams, regardless of posturing for the electorate.

I'm drawing a distinct line here between "reputation" in terms of public opinion of a medium as opposed to political lobbying for specific legal breaks. The former essentially doesn't matter, in fact some developers actively court "negative" publicity to sell games. The latter is a completely different kettle of fish - of course the industry needs to get lobbyists as well entrenched in the corridors of power as the energy, defence and pharmaceutical industries. That isn't even a question - it's a matter of sensible business practice throughout the modern world.

Do I agree with this state of affairs? No. But I'm not wholly blind to the reality of it.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
Fair fair. :) Though I have to take issue with this:
I'm drawing a distinct line here between "reputation" in terms of public opinion of a medium as opposed to political lobbying for specific legal breaks. The former essentially doesn't matter, in fact some developers actively court "negative" publicity to sell games.
The problem is, it can matter, it just hasn't mattered yet, where games are concerned. The public are... not very smart when it comes to things that are new, and they're often led-on by a media who play on the whole "Think of the children" aspect of society. Put the two together, and you have a situation which can theoretically get out of hand quite a bit.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8
Of course. That's why you need the lobbyists to make sure that tabloid outrage doesn't turn into legislation. :)

Posted:A year ago

#9

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